Preparing for Flu Season - Everything You Need to Prepare for the Flu
In the U.S., flu season can start as early as October; though, it sometimes doesn’t rear its head until January or February.
Coughing, chills, body aches; it sounds like flu season. There’s no way to guarantee you won’t get the flu, but certain steps can help reduce the possibility. By learning more about the disease, what steps you can take to prevent it and what to do if you get sick, you can increase your chance of staying healthy or recovering more quickly.
What Causes Flu?
The flu is caused by a virus, or rather, a number of different virus strains. Viruses are tiny organisms that enter a host’s cells and force the DNA to start making copies of the virus. After multiplying itself many times, it leaves the cell, usually destroying the host cell in the process. Flu viruses are spread through the respiratory system. You can get infected by inhaling droplets from someone infected who is coughing or sneezing. You can also get the virus by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose or mouth.
Signs and Symptoms of Flu
Typical flu symptoms include the following:
- Fever, or feeling feverish without an increased temperature
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Body or muscle aches
- Diarrhea, especially in children
It can be easy to mistake flu for the common cold, since many of the symptoms are the same. However, watch for the flu triad: muscle aches, feverish feelings and cough. Coughing is an especially tell-tale sign that you have the flu instead of a common cold.
See also: Flu – Causes, Symptoms, Complications, and ER Treatment.
Tips for Preventing Flu
Work to prevent infection with these practical tips:
- Get a flu shot – The CDC recommends that people older than six months get a flu shot. The vaccine is created each year to help protect against the strains of flu expected to be the most common. It’s usually available in October and it’s best to get it early, but any time during flu season is okay. Getting your whole family vaccinated is one of the best ways to keep flu out of your home.
- Avoid sick people – If you’re less than three feet away from someone coughing or sneezing, you can get infected.
- Don’t touch your face – Touching your face with infected hands quickly spreads flu viruses, so avoid touching your face without washing your hands first.
- Wash your hands – Wash your hands frequently, using the following proper technique. Use warm water and antibacterial soap. Lather for 20 seconds, paying particular attention to your fingers, fingernails and jewelry; this is about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Rinse your hands well and dry them.
- Disinfect – Disinfecting items that get touched a lot, like doorknobs, phones and remote controls, helps stop the spread of viruses.
- Use hand sanitizer – Put bottles of hand sanitizer around your home and in your car so you can quickly and frequently clean your hands.
See also: Flu Symptoms vs COVID-19 Symptoms
Tips for Staying Healthy
In addition to working to prevent flu, you can also take general steps toward staying healthy:
- Get enough sleep – Not sleeping well can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching the flu. Aim for seven to nine hours each night to keep your antibodies strong.
- Eat healthy foods – A well-balanced diet with fresh foods and lean protein can help strengthen the immune system and boost health.
- Work out – Exercise is a great way to help keep the immune system strong. But don’t overdo it; if you feel under the weather, stick with moderate exercise. And skip your workout completely if you have body aches, chest congestion or a stomach bug.
- Quit smoking – Smoking can decrease immune response and hinder the respiratory system.
- Stay hydrated – Proper hydration is important for many body functions. Carry a bottle of water with you and drink from it often.
When Should I Seek Medical Care?
Most cases of the common cold and even flu can be managed at home. However, people can get worsening symptoms requiring a medical evaluation.
You should seek medical care or Emergency Care when you feel profound fatigue, dizziness, pain that is worrisome or different, shortness of breath or anything you are not comfortable with managing at home.
You should also seek care if you are immunocompromised in any way or have a chronic medical condition in which the flu could worsen. If you would like to take an antiviral medication, you can make an appointment with your primary care provider or visit our closest Emergency Room.
We provide urgent emergency care medical services in all of our emergency rooms including Highland Village, Little Elm, Frisco, Hurst, Colleyville, Texoma, Hillcrest, Uptown, Mansfield and surrounding communities.
Our near me ER is open 24/7 to help treat and diagnose minor and major emergencies. Our board-certified physicians are available 24 hours.